Tornadoes, hail and other severe weather batters central U.S.

"Take cover now if you are in the path of this storm!" the National Weather service warned communities in central Texas.
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By Phil McCausland and Shamar Walters

The central United States saw warm spring temperatures and sunshine replaced at the start of the weekend by destructive storms, including dangerous tornadoes and golf ball-sized hail.

A low-pressure front moving across the central and southern Plains and the Mississippi Valley on Saturday brought heavy showers and thunderstorms, the National Weather Service reported. Large hail, dangerous wind gusts and tornadoes are expected — and already struck some portions of the country.

The city of Abilene, Texas, signed a disaster declaration and opened up an emergency operation center on Saturday after a spate of severe weather, including a potential tornado, swept through the community earlier that morning, ripping roofs from homes and walloping cars with wind and debris.

Tiffany Nicole Casey, 25, told NBC News that she has lived in Abilene for seven years, but has never seen a storm like this. She woke early in the morning to her dogs barking and then suddenly her windows started shattering.

"I was standing in the dark, and everything was breaking and shattering around me so I knew something bad was happening," she said.

“I’m just happy I still have a home," Casey added. "My house is still structured. There's people whose houses are torn apart.”

Mayor Anthony Williams said that the city suffered a wind event at 6 a.m. local time, and that at least 100 structures had been damaged. No significant injuries were reported so far, but he warned that people should steer clear of the area.

"Even if your family or friends are in the affected areas," he said during a press conference, "we ask you not to go in right now. Power lines are down and we are concerned about your safety. So let the professionals, those on the ground, coordinate that."

In San Angelo, Texas, 90 miles to the southeast, the National Weather Service confirmed a "rain wrapped tornado on the ground" on Saturday morning.

"Take cover now if you are in the path of this storm!" the weather service warned.

Utlity AEP Texas reported that more than 35,000 customers were without power between San Angelo and Abilene due to downed power lines, but local officials said there were no reports of major injuries or fatalities.

In nearby Ballinger, Texas, the high school announced on Saturday morning that it would delay its graduation because of weather damage in the area.

Those were not the only tornadoes to touch down in the U.S. this weekend. Storm chasers in Nebraska and Oklahoma tailed several dramatic twisters across the two Great Plains states on Friday. At least two homes were destroyed in Comanche County, Oklahoma.

High winds, tornadoes and hail aren't the only concerns during this particular stretch of storms, however.

This latest round of rain could be a huge issue for many people in the Midwest, particularly for farmers and small communities where flooding has laid siege to whole towns and left millions of acres of farmland unusable since March.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that the flooding has also started to disrupt farm shipments along the Mississippi River of agriculture products, coal, petroleum and construction material needed amid farmers' planting season.

This latest woe comes amid a series of years of difficult financial circumstances that have caused commodity prices to plummet. The Trump administration's trade war with China has only made the situation more precarious for American farmers.

“You’ve got a perfect storm here,” Kenneth Hartman Jr., who grows corn, soybeans and wheat just south of Waterloo, Illinois, told the AP. “It looks bad for us.”